Bertrand Russell Chronology *
1872 Bertrand Russell is born 18 May at Ravenscroft, Wales, to John and Kate, Lord and Lady Amberley. John Stuart Mill is his secular godfather.
1874 His mother and sister die from diphtheria in June and July, respectively.
1876 In January his father dies of bronchitis. He and his brother, Frank, begin living with their paternal grandparents.
1878 Lord John Russell, the former prime minister and Russell’s paternal grandfather, dies, and his grandmother, Lady Francis Russell, takes charge of his upbringing.
1890 Russell enters Trinity College, Cambridge University, and begins studies in applied mathematics and mathematical physics (e.g., calculus, optics, astronomy, statics, hydrostatics, dynamics). In February, he is elected to the Apostles, an intellectual secret society at Cambridge.
1893 Upon coming of age in May, Russell inherits £20,000. In July, he begins a year of philosophical studies focusing on ethics, metaphysics, and 17th-century philosophy.
1894 Graduating from Cambridge in June, he chooses a fellowship thesis topic on the philosophy of non-Euclidian geometry. He marries Alys Pearsall Smith in December.
1895 Russell attends economics lectures at the University of Berlin from January to March, receives a five-year fellowship from Trinity College in October, and subsequently studies German social democracy while researching his thesis on geometry.
1896 In January, Russell publishes “The Logic of Geometry” and in March studies Georg Cantor’s set theory. In October, he visits the United States. In December, he publishes German Social Democracy.
1897 In January, Russell publishes a review of Louis Couturat’s book on Cantorian set theory, De l’Infini Mathématique (1896). In May, he reads Hermann Lotze’s Metaphysik (1879) and publishes his fellowship thesis as An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry. In “Seems Madam? Nay, It Is,” a talk given in December to the Apostles, he begins to break with idealism.
1898 Russell’s grandmother dies in January. In January and February, he attends John McTaggart’s lectures on Lotze. Throughout the year, Russell has frequent discussions with G. E. Moore, leading to their adoption of realism and break with idealism. In September, Russell reads Alexius Meinong’s Über die Bedeutung des Weberschen Gesetzes (1896). He subsequently travels to Italy, Germany, and France, visiting Couturat in November.
1899 Beginning in January, Russell lectures on G. W. Leibniz at Trinity College. In April, he publishes his review of Meinong’s Über die Bedeutung and responds to Henri Poincaré’s review of his Essay on the Foundations of Geometry. In July, he again studies Cantorian set theory.
1900 At Couturat’s invitation, Russell gives a talk in August at the International Congress of Philosophy in Paris and attends the Second International Congress of Mathematicians, where he meets Giuseppe Peano and hears him speak. Russell acquires Peano’s publications in September and reads them all. He publishes A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz in October. Meanwhile, Russell reads volume 1 of Gottlob Frege’s Grundgesetze der Arithmetik (1893). In December, he discovers what is now called Cantor’s paradox of the greatest cardinal, which leads him to give a first formulation of a paradox of sets. Russell remains silent on the matter for over a year, except to Alfred North Whitehead. He completes a draft of The Principles of Mathematics.
1901 In June, Russell begins to work with Whitehead on “Finite and Infinite Cardinal Numbers,” a paper that anticipates Principia Mathematica (1910–1913) by treating cardinal numbers within the logic of relations. He publishes the important “Logic of Relations” in July and November.
1902 In January, Russell acknowledges that his marriage to Alys is unhappy. In May, he begins reading Alexius Meinong’s Über Annahmen (1902). In June, his rereading Frege’s Begriffsscrift (1879) and Grundgesetze shows him the significance of these texts. Later that month, he communicates the paradox he had earlier discovered, now called Russell’s paradox, to Frege and Peano. He receives Frege’s response in a matter of days. Russell informs Couturat of the paradox in September.
1903 In May, Russell’s The Principles of Mathematics is published; it contains his first attempt to prevent contradictions by means of distinguishing entities into types. From June through December, he works on problems of meaning and denoting.
1904 In April, July, and August, Russell publishes “Meinong’s Theory of Complexes and Assumptions.” In July, he publishes “The Axiom of Infinity.”
1905 In June, Russell reads “The Nature of Truth” to the Jowett Society. In July, he publishes “The Existential Import of Propositions.” In October, he publishes his most famous essay, “On Denoting,” followed in November by “On the Relation of Mathematics to Symbolic Logic.” By this time, he has drafted “On Some Difficulties in the Theory of Transfinite Numbers and Order Types” and is experimenting with a method of preventing paradoxes that does not involve type-distinctions, inspired by the techniques described in “On Denoting.”
1906 In March, “On Some Difficulties in the Theory of Transfinite Numbers and Order Types” is published, followed in September by “Les Paradoxes de la Logique,” which is later published as “On Insolubilia.” In these articles, Russell continues to experiment with a substitutional method of handling the contradictions.
1907 In May, Russell runs for office on the Women’s Suffrage ticket in Wimbledon, a Tory district, creating publicity for the movement but losing. Later, he publishes “On the Nature of Truth,” accepts a more complex, or ramified, theory of types, and considers the no-classes theory.
1908 In May, Russell publishes “Mathematical Logic as Based on the Theory of Types,” written a year earlier. He is elected a fellow of the Royal Society. “Determinism and Morality,” written in May 1905, is published in October. It is later reprinted as the fourth section of “Elements of Ethics” in Philosophical Essays (1910).
1909 In April, Russell publishes “Pragmatism,” an essay reviewing John Dewey, William James, and F. C. S. Schiller. It is reprinted in 1910 in Philosophical Essays.
1910 In February and May, Russell publishes the first three sections of “Elements of Ethics.” In May, he also publishes “The Theory of Logical Types.” He receives a five-year lectureship at Trinity. Philosophical Essays appears in November. In December, with Whitehead, he publishes volume 1 of Principia Mathematica. He reviews Spinoza’s Ethics.
1911 In March, Russell begins an intimate relationship with Ottoline Morrell. In the same month, he publishes “Analytic Realism” and reads “Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description” to the Aristotelian Society. It is published later in the year. In October, he reads “On the Relations of Universals and Particulars” to the Aristotelian Society and meets Ludwig Wittgenstein, who has come to study with him.
1912 The Problems of Philosophy is published in January. In April, volume 2 of Principia Mathematica is published, as is “The Philosophy of Bergson.” Poincaré dies in July. In October, Russell is working on the paper “What Is Logic?” and in December on the nature of matter.
1913 Volume 3 of Principia Mathematica is published in April. In May, Russell begins work on Theory of Knowledge but abandons it in June after considering Wittgenstein’s objections to it. In July, he publishes “On the Notion of Cause.” In September, Russell meets Norbert Wiener and reads his dissertation. In the same month, he arranges for Wittgenstein’s dictation of “Notes on Logic.”
1914 Between March and May, Russell teaches two classes at Harvard University, one on logic, the other on epistemology. He also gives the Lowell lectures there, which are published in August as Our Knowledge of the External World. World War I begins. Russell throws himself into antiwar, pacifist work. In November, he delivers “On Scientific Method in Philosophy” as the Herbert Spencer lecture at Oxford University.
1915 In January, Russell publishes “The Ethics of War.” In February, he meets D.H. Lawrence. In May, he receives a renewal of his five-year lectureship at Trinity College. In July, he publishes “The Ultimate Constituents of Matter.” In November, he publishes Justice in War-Time, rejecting his earlier moral objectivism for moral subjectivism.
1916 In April, Russell begins working for the No-Conscription Fellowship. In June, he is fined £110 for his antiwar speeches and writings. In July, he is dismissed from Trinity College for these antiwar efforts. Principles of Social Reconstruction is published in November.
1917 Russell’s publications throughout the year mostly concern the war. From October to December, he delivers lectures in London on mathematical logic, which he later publishes as Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919).
1918 In January, Cantor dies. From January till March, Russell delivers eight lectures in London on logical atomism; the first two are published in the Monist in October. In February, he is sentenced to six months in Brixton prison for referring in print to American use of police to break strikes. Russell enters prison in May. He begins to reject dualism for neutral monism, writing much of what is to become The Analysis of Mind (1921) as well working on Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy. He leaves prison in September.
1919 In January, April, and July, the remaining lectures on logical atomism are published in the Monist. In February, Russell writes “On Propositions: What They Are and How They Mean.” From May to June, he delivers lectures on the analysis of mind. In November, Albert Einstein’s general relativity theory is confirmed by experiment. For a week in December, Russell meets at The Hague with Wittgenstein, recently released as a prisoner of war. This is their first contact since 1914. In the same month, Trinity College awards Russell a new five-year lectureship, to commence in July 1920.
1920 Trinity College grants Russell a one-year leave of absence. From April through June, he travels through Russia, where he meets Emma Goldman and interviews Vladimir Lenin. In September, he leaves for China with Dora Black, arriving in October, the same month his essay “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’” is published in Mind. Russell resigns his Trinity lectureship at the end of October. In November, The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism is published.
1921 Still in China in March, Russell falls ill with pneumonia and is reported dead by the Japanese press. The Analysis of Mind is published in June. In August, Russell arrives back in England. In September, he divorces Alys and marries Dora, who gives birth to his son John in November. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, with an introduction by Russell, is published in German in December.
1922 In July, Russell publishes a review of John Maynard Keynes’s Treatise on Probability. In August, he publishes the essay “The Theory of Relativity.” The Problem of China is published in September. In November, Russell runs unsuccessfully as the Labor Party candidate in Chelsea. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is published in English in December.
1923 In March, Russell finishes The Prospects of Industrial Civilization, written with Dora. “Vagueness” is published in June. The ABC of Atoms appears in September. In December, Dora gives birth to Russell’s daughter Katharine Jane. Throughout the year, Russell works on appendices and a new introduction to Principia Mathematica that incorporate ideas suggested by Frank Ramsey and Wittgenstein.
1924 Russell publishes “Logical Atomism” in January, Icarus, or the Future of Science in February, and a number of papers on mathematics and physics throughout the year. In February, he completes the new introduction to Principia Mathematica.
1925 In March, volume 1 of the second edition of Principia Mathematica is published. What I Believe appears in the same month. Gottlob Frege dies in July. On Education, Especially in Early Childhood is two-thirds done by August. The ABC of Relativity is published in October.
1926 In January, Russell publishes “Perception.” On Education comes out in February, “Psychology and Politics” in March, “Relativity and Religion” in May, a review of Ogden and Richard’s The Meaning of Meaning in August, and “Behaviorism and Values” in December.
1927 In April, the pamphlet Why I Am Not a Christian is published, followed by The Analysis of Matter in July and An Outline of Philosophy in November. After Analysis of Matter, Russell does not publish another book of academic philosophy until 1940. Russell and Dora open the Beacon Hill School in September. Throughout October and November, Russell lectures in New York to raise money for the school.
1928 From January to March, Russell lectures on the philosophy of physics; he also runs the Beacon Hill School. In February, he publishes “Mr. F. P. Ramsey and Logical Paradoxes.” At the same time, Dora is lecturing in the United States to raise money for the school. In September, Sceptical Essays is published.
1929 In February, Russell reviews Arthur Eddington’s Nature of the Physical World. In June, Russell and Moore examine Wittgenstein for the PhD. In September, at the start of a new school year at Beacon Hill, Russell begins a two-month series of lectures in New York to raise money for the school. Marriage and Morals is published in October.
1930 Frank Ramsey dies in January at age 26. Russell’s essay “Probability and Fact” is published in August. The Conquest of Happiness comes out in October. In December, Russell reviews James Jeans’s Mysterious Universe.
1931 In March, Russell’s older brother, Frank, dies, and Russell becomes the third Earl Russell. In July, he begins a weekly syndicated newspaper column for the Hearst newspaper chain. In September, he publishes The Scientific Outlook. In October, he reviews Ramsey’s Foundations of Mathematics. From October through December, he is in New York raising money for the Beacon Hill School.
1932 In January, Russell participates in the BBC broadcast “Has Science Changed Society?” Peano dies in April. In September, Russell’s Education and the Social Order is published. In December, he and Dora agree to a legal separation.
1933 In April, Russell publishes a review of Eddington’s Expanding Universe. In July, he begins living with Patricia (“Peter”) Spence, his children’s former governess at the Beacon Hill School.
1934 In October, Russell publishes Freedom and Organization 1814- 1914 and lectures on “The Revolt Against Reason” to the Fabian Society (reprinted as “The Ancestry of Fascism” in In Praise of Idleness).
1935 In July, Russell and Dora divorce, and he leaves the Beacon Hill School. In October, he publishes In Praise of Idleness. Religion and Science is published the same month, anticipating the emotivist ethics of A. J. Ayer as well as that of C. L. Stevenson. In November, he reads “The Limits of Empiricism” to the Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club.
1936 Russell and Patricia Spence marry in January. In March, Russell reviews A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic. In April, he delivers “The Limits of Empiricism” to the Aristotelian Society. In May, he publishes “On Order in Time,” in July “The Limits of Empiricism,” and in October Which Way to Peace?
1937 In February, Russell delivers his maiden speech in the House of Lords. The Amberley Papers: The Letters and Diaries of Bertrand Russell’s Parents, edited with Patricia, appears in print in March. Russell’s son Conrad is born in April. In September, he publishes a new introduction to the second edition of The Principles of Mathematics. In November, he reads “On Verification” to the Aristotelian Society.
1938 Russell reads “Propositional Attitudes” to the Oxford University Philosophical Society in February and “On the Relevance of Psychology to Logic” to the Aristotelian Society in July. “On Verification” is published in July. In September, he begins a one-year appointment at the University of Chicago and publishes Power: A New Social Analysis. While in Chicago, Russell engages Rudolf Carnap in extensive discussions about the nature of meaning and knowledge.
1939 In March, Russell receives a three-year appointment to teach at the University of California. On a lecture tour from March through May, he speaks on the imminence of war. In September, Germany invades Poland: for much of Europe, World War II begins.
1940 In February, Russell receives an appointment to the faculty of the City College of New York, to begin in January 1941. He resigns from his position in California. In April, the New York appointment is revoked on morals charges. From October to December, Russell delivers the William James Lectures at Harvard University. In June, he publicly announces his support of the war against Germany. In August, he accepts a five-year lectureship appointment from the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania. An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth is published in December.
1941 In January, Russell begins lecturing on the history of Western philosophy at the Barnes Foundation. These lectures form the basis of his History of Western Philosophy (1945). Russell speaks on CBS radio with Mark Van Doren about Hegel’s Philosophy of History.
1942 From January to April, CBS radio broadcasts several talks by Russell with Jacques Barzun, Mark Van Doren, Scott Buchanan, and others on various figures in the history of philosophy. In December, Russell is dismissed by the Barnes Foundation before the end of his contract.
1943 From July through December, Russell works in Bryn Mawr College’s library on History of Western Philosophy. In November, having successfully sued the Barnes Foundation for breach of contract, he is awarded $20,000 in damages. In October, November, and December, he speaks on “Postulates of Scientific Inference” at Bryn Mawr, Wellesley College, and Princeton University. In December, while living in Princeton, New Jersey, he begins regular discussions with Albert Einstein.
1944 In January, Russell learns that he has been awarded a lectureship at Trinity College. He returns to England in June. In the fall, he begins lectures at Trinity on non-demonstrative inference; he gives these annually through 1949. “My Mental Development” and “Reply to Criticisms” are published in The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell.
1945 Russell begins speaking regularly on BBC radio on a wide variety of popular and political subjects. In October, A History of Western Philosophy is published in America. His essay “Logical Positivism” is also published in October.
1946 In June, on behalf of the British Council, Russell speaks in Switzerland on “Power.” In November, A History of Western Philosophy is published in Britain.
1947 In January, Russell reviews the second edition of Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic. From February to May, Russell delivers a number of talks for the BBC. In September and October, on behalf of the British Council, he speaks in Holland, Belgium, and France on the need for world government. Whitehead dies in December. Russell continues to give regular talks and interviews on BBC radio.
1948 In January, Russell and Fr. Frederick Copleston, SJ, take part in a BBC broadcast debate on the existence of God. In October, Russell publishes Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. Also in October, while on a lecture tour in Norway, he survives the crash of a small plane into the ocean. Two days later, he continues his lecture tour. In the same month, he speaks in Berlin on behalf of the foreign office. In December, he gives the first of six Reith lectures (commemorating John Reith) on BBC radio.
1949 In January, Russell delivers the second of the Reith lectures on BBC radio; these lectures are published in May as Authority and the Individual. In April, Russell decides to separate from Patricia. In May, he publishes Authority and the Individual. He is awarded the Order of Merit in June. In September, he is elected a Life Fellow to Trinity College.
1950 Russell publishes the essay “Logical Positivism” in January. Unpopular Essays comes out in September, the same month in which Russell resumes a friendship with the American Edith Finch. In November, Russell delivers his Machette lecture at Columbia University. It is later published as The Impact of Science on Society. In December, he is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
1951 In April, Wittgenstein dies. Russell publishes The Impact of Science on Society in May and New Hopes for a Changing World in September.
1952 In May, Russell celebrates his 80th birthday. In June, he and Patricia divorce. In July, he publishes What Is Freedom?, funded by the Information Research Department (IRD), a clandestine agency of the British government. The IRD later secretly funds the publication of What Is Democracy? (1953) as well. Russell marries Edith Finch in December.
1953 In February, Russell publishes “The Cult of Common Usage,” a criticism of the school of ordinary language philosophy. He also publishes Satan in the Suburbs, a collection of short stories. From September through October, Russell broadcasts several talks on different topics on BBC radio.
1954 In May, Russell publishes Nightmares of Eminent Persons, another collection of short stories. In July, he publishes Human Society in Ethics and Politics. In August, he reviews Ayer’s Philosophical Essays. In December, he delivers the influential BBC broadcast “Man’s Peril from the Hydrogen Bomb.” It is reproduced the next year as “The Russell-Einstein Manifesto.”
1955 In January, Russell speaks on John Stuart Mill to the British Academy. His talk is later reprinted as a pamphlet and in Portraits from Memory. In April, Einstein dies, having previously written Russell of his willingness to sign a document outlining the dangers of nuclear war. In July, “The Russell-Einstein Manifesto” is published, leading to the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, in 1957.
1956 In March and April, Russell protests the conviction and imprisonment of Martin Sobell, an accomplice of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In August and throughout the year, Russell protests when French, British, and Israeli forces attack Egypt. In September, Portraits from Memory is published, followed by Logic and Knowledge in October. During this year and every year thereafter, Russell writes extensively on the threat of nuclear war.
1957 In April, Russell publishes “Logic and Ontology.” In July, “Mr. Strawson on Referring” is published in reply to Strawson’s 1950 essay “On Referring.” In October, Why I Am Not a Christian appears in Britain. In November, Russell publishes “An Open Letter to Eisenhower and Khrushchev,” to which Nikita Khrushchev and John Foster Dulles reply.
1958 In January, Russell reviews Gilbert Ryle’s Concept of Mind. He founds, presides over, and addresses the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), publishing their first pamphlet in February. In October, G. E. Moore dies; Russell writes an obituary for the Times.
1959 In January, Russell publishes Common Sense and Nuclear War. My Philosophical Development is published in May.
1960 In February, Russell debates Edward Teller on nuclear issues on Edward Murrow’s CBS television show. Russell resigns from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and forms the Committee of 100, over which he presides. Act or Perish, a leaflet written by Russell, is published by the Committee of 100 late in October.
1961 In September, Russell, who is 89 years old, is sentenced to two months in prison after being charged with incitement to breach of peace for participation in an antinuclear demonstration with other members of the Committee of 100. The sentence is reduced to one week in a prison hospital. In October, Fact and Fiction is published.
1962 In August, the Cuban ambassador to Great Britain tells Russell of the Cuban government’s concerns about a possible U.S. invasion of Cuba. In October, President John F. Kennedy finds evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba and begins a blockade of Cuba. Russell sends telegrams to Khrushchev and Kennedy urging conciliation. Khrushchev replies to Russell publicly, agreeing that the crisis should not be further escalated and offering to have a summit meeting with the United States.
1963 In January, Russell resigns as president of the Committee of 100. Unarmed Victory, his account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, is published in April. That month, Russell begins protesting American atrocities, including the use of napalm, in Vietnam. He forms the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation in September.
1964 Russell writes “The Duty of a Philosopher in This Age.” In August, the Tonkin Resolution authorizes U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Russell continues to write voluminously protesting the war in Vietnam and other Cold War threats to peace and safety.
1965 Russell publishes an addendum to his “Replies to Criticisms” in a new edition of The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell.
1966 Russell forms the International War Crimes Tribunal to investigate American military actions in Vietnam.
1967 In January, War Crimes in Vietnam is published. Volume 1 of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell is published in March.
1968 Volume 2 of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell is published in April. Russell sells his papers to McMaster University to raise money for the International War Crimes Tribunal.
1969 Volume 3 of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell is published in May. Dear Bertrand Russell, selections of his correspondence with the general public from 1950 to 1968, is published in September.
1970 Russell dies at his home in Penrhyndeudraeth, Wales, on 2 February at the age of 97.
* From A Historical Dictionary of Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy (c) 2009 Rosalind Carey and John Ongley